Saving Ourselves from Ourselves
Long-time readers of this blog – now starting its 16th year this month – know that I have focused a lot of columns on the climate crisis and environmental issues. A lot of focus on energy, transportation and the big need to completely rethink how humanity lives on Earth.
Obviously as a professional futurist it would be impossible to not write about the climate crisis as it is such a big looming part of our immediate and long-term future. I find it incomprehensible for anyone calling themselves a futurist to NOT speak to the issue.
Recently I delivered my fifth -first virtual- TEDx talk as part of the TEDx Lake Shore Drive event held on Saturday February 6th. It was just uploaded by TED at the end of February. It is less than six minutes long, yet I think the message is both clear and urgent.
For decades, environmentalists have been using the phrase “Save the Planet”. It was an easy way to show one is concerned about the environment and the adverse effect humanity is having on earth. However, it is not very accurate, shows the inherent problem of our relationship to the planet, and in fact creates a sense of overwhelming magnitude.
The planet doesn’t need saving.
The planet has been in existence for some 3.5 billion years and will continue to exist until the sun blows up in another several billion years. So, the planet doesn’t need to be saved. It will be fine, different, and humans won’t be around. Scientists are clear that earth has entered a sixth extinction event, or as least is rapidly moving in that direction. In the past five such events, it has been estimated that some 73-97% of all existing species became extinct. This is the first such event triggered by a single species, us. It is estimated that some 150 species become extinct every day, mostly due to us. How does that make you feel? So the planet will survive, we won’t.
Inherent in the phrase “save the planet” is the reason we have gotten ourselves into the current climate crisis. Humanity has largely felt that the earth, and all the other species exist to support us. We are above, not of. We can do what we want as we are the apotheosis of evolution, so the planet and all its perfect systems exist for our benefit. This is completely anthropomorphic! We act without consequence, because we can. That is why we are in this existential moment. We have been largely disconnected from the actions we take and the consequences they have. So using is phrase simply underscores the reason why we are in this crisis.
“Saving the Planet” as a concept is an overwhelming challenge. This is why so many people have thrown up their hands and taken the “what can I do” stance. Of course, there are ever ready environmentalists -writer included- who can provide ways to change consciousness, thinking and behavior. The problem with this is that humanity is still hurdling down a destructive path. I attended the first Earth Day in 1970, but in the 50 years since then the “reduce, reuse and recycle” concept has resulted in a circular economy that, in 2018 was only 9% of the global economy. Incrementalism is completely failing, as our actions to change are not having enough effect. Half of all the CO2 in the atmosphere that humanity emitted has occurred since the year 2000, 30 years after the first Earth Day. Delusional behavior!
“Saving Our Selves from Ourselves” acknowledges that we, humanity, are largely at cause for the climate crisis, which is true. This means that we created the problem. If we created the problem, we should be able to create the solution. The climate crisis then becomes a manageable problem. In the latter book named above on the Finite Earth Economy, we wrote that humanity had to make fundamental and large choices and actions by 2030 if we want there to be civilization as we know it by the latter part of this century.
We have about a decade to start the major, unprecedented effort of saving ourselves from ourselves.
We are at the #forkintheroad this decade when it comes to facing the climate crisis.
Urgency! Urgency! Urgency! Please share this video as one action to take, today.
Tomorrow, do something else. Repeat daily.